It's not often that a boys soccer coach is blessed with the talent and size in a senior class like Trinity Academy coach Tom Nykamp was last season.
Nykamp might be the only coach to gain experience in back-to-back seasons, as the senior class grew to 14 this season for the Knights.
After winning the Class 4-1A championship last season, Trinity will look to its upperclassmen once again to return.
"It's definitely very unusual for this to happen two years in a row," Nykamp said. "I guess I'm pretty lucky."
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Opposing coaches would agree.
The attack begins with senior Regan Billings, a two-time coaches all-state player who was also selected as the Class 4-1A player of the year last season. He returns as the area's most prolific goal-scorer.
"He just has a knack for the goal, it's been that way for four years," Nykamp said. "He just knows how to create space and make defenders guess. You just know he's going to find the back of the net."
Other defenses have taken notice, and employed gimmick defenses to slow Billings. But Nykamp doesn't consider that a wise move with scoring options like David Warnky, Ryan Miller, Drew Burke and Jordan Kinnevan.
"I have no problem with it," Billings said. "If they're going to double me, then that will just open things up and create opportunities for the other guys. And that's fine by me."
Nykamp figures nine of the seniors will be starters. While other teams might have one or two dependable substitutes, the Knights can go up to 17 deep on varsity.
"The accountability is there," senior Zach Wernham said. "You have no room to slack off in practice. You're always working hard because there's that next guy behind you, ready to take your spot."
Trinity faces an early-season test against Berean Academy in its second game Tuesday. For the title defense to be successful, Trinity will have to transition five new players into its lineup.
But the signs of a team built to make another run at the title are there for Nykamp.
"I think if you look at any team that goes deep in the playoffs, they always have experience and good leadership from their seniors," Nykamp said. "I think younger teams can play well in the regular season, but that experience counts when it gets to the postseason."